CIA to Israel: Don't Attack Iran

The head of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency warned Israel this week not to go it alone and attack Iran’s nuclear installations.

Hana Levi Julian,

Shihab-3 missile
Shihab-3 missile
Israel News Photo: (archive)

The head of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency has warned Israel not to go it alone and attack Iran’s nuclear installations. “The last thing we need in the Middle East is a nuclear arms race,” said Leon Panetta in an interview published Monday in the quarterly Global Viewpoint.

Panetta said the American intelligence community is well aware that Iran is a destabilizing force in the Middle East, regardless of the passive stance taken by the White House. “The threat posed by Iran has our full attention. Even though the administration is moving toward diplomatic engagement with that country, no one is naïve about the challenges,” he said.

Nonetheless, unlike their Israeli counterparts, U.S. intelligence officials apparently do not believe that Iran is actively involved in developing a nuclear weapon at present. Rather, the Islamic Republic is simply laying the groundwork for such preparations, he clarified.

“It is our judgment that Iran halted weaponization in 2003,” said Panetta, “but it continues to develop uranium enrichment technology and nuclear-capable ballistic missiles.”

Iran Launches 2,000-kilometer Missile
Even as military and intelligence officials debated whether Iran had the capability to produce a long-range intercontinental ballistic missile, the Islamic Republic surprised the world Wednesday by launching precisely such a weapon.

“We launched a Seji-2 missile, which is a two-stage missile, and it has reached the intended target,” President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad proudly proclaimed to the media.

The Iranian president added that the 2,000-kilometer range missile is powered by solid fuel, and said it represents an improvement from the country’s previous Shihab missile series.

The launch came one day after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu discussed the Iranian nuclear threat with U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington.

The missile firing places in question a report by the U.S.-based EastWest Institute, which offered the assessment that it would take Iran at least six to eight years to produce a missile capable of delivering a warhead at a 2,000-kilometer range. The report, which was prepared by a team of six U.S. nuclear experts and six Russian experts, furthermore stated that Iran would not be able to produce even a simple nuclear device for at least another one to three years.

A separate report prepared by the Rand Corporation for the U.S. Air Force, also released Tuesday, said that Iran is a less potent foe than commonly thought and urged the U.S. to work together with other international powers to contain Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

The document claimed Iran’s military is poorly maintained and has outdated equipment and personnel shortages and said that the Tehran regime maintains less control over Hizbullah and Hamas than popularly believed.

The Rand report recommended that officials should focus on Iran’s actions, not rhetoric.